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Dyslexia Symptoms to Look for When Testing at Different Stages

Dyslexia, a common learning disorder, affects a person’s ability to read, spell, write, and speak. Early identification and intervention are crucial in managing dyslexia effectively. Recognizing the symptoms at various developmental stages can make a significant difference in the support and strategies employed to help individuals with dyslexia. This article outlines the key dyslexia symptoms to look for when testing at different stages: early childhood, elementary school years, and adolescence.

Early Childhood Symptoms

In early childhood, dyslexia can be challenging to diagnose because children are still developing foundational language and literacy skills. However, there are specific signs that parents and educators should be aware of:

  1. Delayed Speech Development: Children with dyslexia often begin talking later than their peers. They may have difficulty pronouncing words correctly and might mix up sounds in multisyllabic words (e.g., saying “aminal” instead of “animal”).
  2. Difficulty Learning Nursery Rhymes and Rhyming Words: Dyslexic children may struggle with rhyming games and learning nursery rhymes, which are typically enjoyed by their peers.
  3. Problems Remembering or Naming Letters, Numbers, and Colors: Early struggles with learning and remembering letters, numbers, and colors can be indicative of dyslexia.
  4. Difficulty with Directional Words: Children might have trouble understanding and using directional words like “up,” “down,” “under,” “over,” and “beside.”

Elementary School Symptoms

During the elementary school years, children with dyslexia typically begin to exhibit more noticeable symptoms as they engage more deeply with reading and writing activities. Key signs to look out for include:

  1. Reading Below Grade Level: One of the hallmark signs of dyslexia in school-aged children is reading below the expected grade level despite having average or above-average intelligence.
  2. Difficulty Decoding Words: Dyslexic children may find it challenging to sound out words and often read slowly and with great effort. They might guess words based on context rather than decoding them phonetically.
  3. Poor Spelling: Spelling can be a significant challenge, with children often writing words phonetically (e.g., “nite” for “night”) and inconsistently.
  4. Trouble with Sequencing: Difficulty in understanding the sequence of letters in words, numbers in math problems, and events in stories is common among dyslexic students.
  5. Avoidance of Reading Activities: Children with dyslexia may avoid reading aloud in class, reading for pleasure, or participating in activities that require reading and writing.

Adolescent Symptoms

As children with dyslexia enter adolescence, the symptoms may evolve, and some may become more pronounced, while others might be masked by coping strategies they have developed. Symptoms to be aware of in this age group include:

  1. Reading Comprehension Issues: Adolescents with dyslexia often struggle to understand and retain what they read. They might need to reread passages multiple times to grasp the meaning.
  2. Slow Reading and Writing: Even with practice, reading and writing may remain slow and laborious, affecting performance across all subjects.
  3. Difficulty Learning Foreign Languages: Learning a new language can be particularly challenging for dyslexic students due to the additional layer of decoding required.
  4. Organizational Problems: Keeping track of assignments, managing time effectively, and organizing thoughts in writing can be difficult for dyslexic adolescents.
  5. Low Self-Esteem and Motivation: Continuous academic struggles can lead to feelings of frustration, low self-esteem, and a lack of motivation to engage in school-related activities.

Importance of Early Identification and Intervention

Identifying dyslexia at an early stage is critical for effective intervention. Early support can help mitigate the challenges associated with dyslexia and provide students with the tools they need to succeed academically and personally. Interventions might include specialized reading programs, one-on-one tutoring, and accommodations such as extended time on tests and the use of technology to aid learning.


Dyslexia is a lifelong condition, but with the right support and interventions, individuals with dyslexia can achieve their full potential. Recognizing the symptoms at different developmental stages is the first step in providing the necessary support. For more detailed information on dyslexia symptoms and testing, visit Dyslexia Symptoms to Look for When Testing at Different Stages.

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